Holocaust survivor Noémi Ban, an award-winning public speaker and teacher, received Western Washington University’s honorary doctorate degree at winter commencement March 23 in Carver Gymnasium.
Ban also gave the commencement address, and graduating senior Wesley Ball of Maple Valley gave the student address.
Approximately 531 undergraduates and 32 master’s candidates received degrees.
Ban, who received an honorary doctorate of humane letters degree, was born in 1922 in Hungary, the eldest of three children. During World War II, Ban was deported to Auschwitz, where she lost almost everyone in her immediate and extended family to the horrors of the death camps. Soon after liberation, she married Earnest Ban, with whom she had two sons including Bellingham pediatrician Steven Ban. The family moved to the U.S. and Ban became an award-winning elementary school teacher and runner-up for Missouri’s 1981 Teacher of the Year.
Soon after retirement in 1989, Ban co-founded what is now Northwest Center for Holocaust, Genocide and Ethnocide Education, housed in Western’s Woodring College of Education. She is driven by a passionate belief that sharing is healing: Ban has shared her story of resilience, hope, healing and love with thousands of people in classrooms, community centers, religious congregations and lecture halls throughout the Pacific Northwest. Her many honors include an honorary doctorate from Gonzaga University in 2001, the 1997 Golden Apple Award, the 2003 Washington Education Association Human and Civil Rights Award, the 2004 Award for Excellence in Holocaust Education and the 2010 Daughters of the American Revolution Americanism Award.
Ball, the ceremony’s student commencement speaker, graduated with a degree in geology. While at Western, Ball played on DIRT, Western’s Men’s Ultimate Frisbee Team, and traveled with the Geology Department for field studies in summer 2012 in Montana and Idaho. Ball plans to go to graduate school to pursue a master’s or his doctorate while studying deep-sea sediments and micropaleontology. He has been accepted to Northern Arizona University for a master’s program and to University of Wisconsin at Madison for a doctorate program. Ball graduated from Tahoma High School, and came to Western in fall 2008.